Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos

A Lagos based legal practitioner, Kole Bello, and three others who were prosecuted by the Lagos State Government on land fraud charges, have been discharged and acquitted by a High Court in Ikeja.

The defendants, who were docked before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Ikeja High Court, were set free by the court on the ground that the prosecution failed to prove its case against them.

Bello stood trial alongside three others, Chukwu Victor, Friday Palmer and Osumah Terry, for allegedly selling a landed property in Lekki, belonging to a deceased woman, Mrs Francisca Awolaja.

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They were docked on a three-count charge bordering on conspiracy, fraud and forgery filed against them by the state government in October 2017.

In the charge, Bello and others were alleged to have forged a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) with reference number 63/63/1989, dated September 28,1989, of a landed property in Lekki, belonging to late Mrs Francisca Awolaja.

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The defendants were also accused of impersonating the late Awolaja in order to fraudulently sell her land to one Mr Rotimi Olubeko for the sum of N5 million.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

During the trial, prosecution called five witness to testify against the defendants, with all four of the accused testifying for themselves in proving their innocence.

Delivering judgment, Justice Taiwo held that the defendants only acted in their professional capacities in the sale of the property in question.

“It is very clear that the document (C of O) used for the sale of the land was forged, but the prosecution failed to prove case of forgery, conspiracy and fraud pressed against the defendants. From the evidences and exhibits before the court, it only show that all the defendants acted in the verious professional capacities in facilitating the sale of the land in question. So, therefore, I hereby discharge and acquit them,” the judge ruled.